By Aaron Bearden, Contributing Writer
After a disappointing weekend in the season-opening FIA Formula E doubleheader at Hong Kong, Neel Jani and Dragon Racing have agreed to part ways.
Jani confirmed the news to Bieler Tagblatt, saying, “The team and I have decided that it is better for the future of both parties, if we end the cooperation.”
The 34-year-old Porsche factory driver came to Dragon in September, and was previously slated to complete the entirety of Season Four. But a host of problems for Jay Penske’s organization – from the leave of Faraday Future’s engineers to obvious on-track struggles – left Jani and the crew limping along to open the tour.
Try as he might, the Swiss couldn’t find competitive pace in the opening HKT Hong Kong E-Prix. He finished 18th in both of the weekend’s races, failing to tally a single point. Teammate Jerome D’Ambrosio faired no better, finishing 19th and 15th in the two races, respectively.
While he’s out of Formula E for the time being, Jani will still be found behind the wheel in Sportscar racing with Rebellion Racing’s LMP1 program.
Replacing Jani will be three-time FIA WTCC champion Jose Maria Lopez, who made his Formula E debut in Season 3 with a 10-race stint for DS Virgin Racing. He is expected to complete the rest of the schedule for the team.
“Jose is a world champion racer who has consistently performed at the highest level in each formula in which he has competed,” Dragon owner Jay Penske said in a release. “I’m confident that his season three experience and collaboration with Jerome will be a winning formula for the DRAGON organization.”
Lopez will make his debut with the team in the Jan. 13 Marrakesh E-Prix, where he’ll work with D’Ambrosio to try to give Dragon their first points of Season Four. The Argentinian has two-career podiums, with a best result of second in Paris.
The organization will field Super GT regular Andrea Calderelli and the Mercedes-backed Maximilian Günther in the upcoming rookie test on the Marrakesh circuit, held the day after the E-Prix.